January 4, 2005

TWO FOR COOPERSTOWN:

Sandberg gets in by six votes (Associated Press, January 4, 2005)

Wade Boggs was overwhelmingly elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility Tuesday, and Ryne Sandberg made it with just six votes to spare on his third try. [...]

Boggs, a five-time American League batting champion for the Boston Red Sox, was selected by 474 of the record 516 voters who are 10-year members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

The 91.86 percent of ballots he received was the 19th-highest percentage in Hall history, and he became the 41st player elected on his first chance.

Sandberg, the 1984 National League MVP for the Chicago Cubs, was picked by 393 voters. He appeared on 76.2 percent of ballots, just above the 75 percent cutoff (387). Sandberg received 49.2 percent of votes in 2003 and got 61.1 percent last year, falling 71 votes short.

Reliever Bruce Sutter, appearing on the ballot for the 12th time, received 344 votes (66.7 percent), up from 301 last year but 43 shy of what was needed this time. He was followed by Jim Rice (307), Rich "Goose" Gossage (285) and Andre Dawson (270).


.328 ain't headcheese, but somehow one feels Sandberg was the better player.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 4, 2005 3:00 PM
Comments

Goose Gossage had a greater impact on the game than any of the other players mentioned in this article. Boggs and Sandberg were solid above-average players, neither one was remarkable on the field. Gossage at his peak was a championship machine during his Yankee years, at one point, if I remember correctly, the Yanks were 81-0 in games in which he'd appeared. I'd bet Gossage was good for significantly more win-shares, but I'm not positive.

Posted by: JimGooding at January 4, 2005 3:14 PM

Sandberg was one of the best fielding 2b ever.

Posted by: oj at January 4, 2005 3:19 PM

Sandberg excelled in both fielding percentage AND number of assists, leading in both repeatedly. The latter may have been helped by ground-ball pitchers, but it at least dispells the myth that he had few errors due to no range.

Posted by: John Thacker at January 4, 2005 3:23 PM

John:

He actually had the best range of at least any modern 2b, so presumably as good as any. (Frank White had similar)

Posted by: oj at January 4, 2005 3:31 PM

Boggs was a one-dimensional singles hitter and that was it. The notion of hitting a long fly ball with a man on third and one out in the late innings of a tied game was utterly beyond him. He was a mediocre fielder, who started his career as a complete iron glove.

I would never have voted for him for the Hall because he was the archetypical self-centered, individual-stats focused, who cares if the team wins or loses ballplayer. He was a perfect example of why it took Boston 86 years to win a World Series.

Sandberg was a great fielder, an excellent RBI man who increased his skills as he got older, learning how to do more at the plate and in the field.

Posted by: Bart at January 4, 2005 3:40 PM

Sandberg was better but Boggs got 3,000 hits which is a lock. Neither deserves to be in the Hall. Sandberg only made it because he was a Cub. If he played for say Pittsburgh, he would not have made it yet, if ever.

Posted by: Bob at January 4, 2005 3:55 PM

Sorry Jim but nobody who averages 72 innings/ season as Gossage did for the last 17 years of his career has more impact than an every day player.

Bill James has both Boggs and Sandberg listed in the top 10 all-time at their positions for a reason. Boggs .415 on-base percentage in itself is an amazing number and Sandberg's 25 homers and 30 doubles a year in his prime are highly unusual for a middle infielder.

As for Goose, I think he belongs in but there are a few things working against him:

- The White Sox wasted the first three years of his career with the worst coming in 1976 when they tried to make him a starter.

- His career straddled the old era of relief pitching (Wilhelm, Face, McDaniel) and the new closer era. Had he come along a few years later he would have had fewer decisions but far more saves.

- He had a reputation as a flake. Some voters think it's a turn-off.

- There are no clear standards for a reliever to make the hall. Until that solidifies it will hurt him as well as Bruce Sutter, Mike Riordan, Lee Smith, etc.

- His two highest profile moments in the public mind, the ones that get replayed on ESPN Classic for instance, are both negative, Brett's homer to win the 1980 pennant and Gibson's homer in game 5 of the 1984 series that put the game out of reach.

Even the bias toward New York athletes probably won't overcome that.

Posted by: jeff at January 4, 2005 3:57 PM

Bob:

He's Mazeroski with a stick.

Posted by: oj at January 4, 2005 4:04 PM

If you were a captain picking a team on the playground, who would pick Boggs ahead of Rice?

Posted by: pj at January 4, 2005 4:14 PM

anyone who didn't have get to have a dh.

Posted by: oj at January 4, 2005 4:18 PM

So Wade Boggs, Steve Garvey and Pete Rose are sitting in a bar. In walks a beautiful blonde. Boggs says, "See that girl? I'm going to take her back to my hotel room and !@#$ her all night long." Garvey says, "You can't do that -- she's carrying my child!" Rose says, "Wanna bet?"

Posted by: joe shropshire at January 4, 2005 4:30 PM

As my memory is unreliable, I looked at the statistics. They seem remarkably similar. Boggs DHed for 108 games and committed 232 errors. Rice DHed for 430, but those were early in his career (when the Sox had Yaz, Lynn, and Evans to play defense) and at the end. He had 66 errors, not unusual, but his chances per game were unusually low. Offensively, both have a career OPS just over .850.

Posted by: pj at January 4, 2005 4:50 PM

OJ:

Yes, but Mazeroski only got in by a Veterans Committee vote. The writers never voted him in.

I think this supports my Cubs point.

Posted by: Bob at January 4, 2005 4:53 PM

A couple of reactions to some of the comments about Sandberg.

Someone posted that he wasn't a remarkable player: besides being one of the best fielding 2B's ever (as OJ pointed out), he also is the all-time HR king for 2B's, an MVP and a perennial all-star. If that's not a remarkable player, only Ruth and Mays should be in the HOF.

Someone else posited that he got in because he was a Cub and that he wouldn't have made it had he been a Pirate. Well, Mazeroski is in and Santo isn't, so I'm not sure I buy that argument either.

The real problem here is that the inflated hitting numbers and the limited/specialized use of relievers in the 90's have hurt our judgment of guys who made their mark in the 80's. Dale Murphy, Jim Rice, Don Mattingly, etc. don't have great career numbers next to Bonds, Belle, Juan Gonzales, etc., but they were the class of their time. As for relievers, Gossage, Sutter and the forgotten Sparky Lyle may not have the save numbers of Eckersley or Lee Smith or Trevor Hoffman, but coming in with 1 out in the 7th and the bases loaded 50 times a year is a hell of a lot harder than coming in to start the 9th only when your team has the lead.

Posted by: Foos at January 4, 2005 4:54 PM

Because Goose is a reliever, stats really fail to fully explain his value. For about a 5 year period at least, he was the dominant closer in the American League, as unhittable as Bruce Sutter.

I think both belong. Jeff Reardon doesn't and Lee Smith is on the borderline.

Posted by: Bart at January 4, 2005 4:55 PM

Bob:

Except that Mazeroski was only a fielder. Sandberg was as good a fielder and an excellent hitter, including an MVP year.

Posted by: oj at January 4, 2005 5:08 PM

Sandberg was for the better part of 10 years both the best fielding and best hitting second baseman in the NL, if not the majors, and once was voted the most valuable player in his entire league. He also could steal bases.

Posted by: John Thacker at January 5, 2005 9:10 AM

You guys were sure right about Sandberg: great range factor throughout his career. In addition, he had way more win shares than I thought. Sandberg certainly belongs in the HOF.

Regarding the relievers, here's some stuff I pulled from tangotiger.net regarding a statistical process for magnifying the importance of late-inning plate appearances to make the performances of closers comparable to starters. Forgive me if this seems silly, I just think it's useful, comments are also tangotiger's:

Bruce Sutter

Bruce Sutter faced 4,251 batters. I looked at each PA, one at a time, and determined how much leverage each PA had (based on my chart). For example, a typical situation has a leverage of "1". One of the most crucial situations of all (bottom of the 9th, ahead by 1, men on second and third, and 1 out) has a leverage over "10". That is, the result of that PA, because of the game state, is magnified 10 times (like having 10 typical PAs all rolled into one).

Bruce Sutter's Leverage Index (LI) was 1.90. That is, Sutter facing 500 batters is the equivalent of a typical pitcher facing 950 batters. Here are Bruce Sutter's career stats, along with the "leveraged" line, with all his numbers multiplied by 1.9.

Pitcher IP H ER
Bruce Sutter 1042 879 328
Leveraged 1980 1670 623

I have my own similarity scores for pitchers (adjusted for league run environment, but not for park), and I looked for the most similar pitchers born since 1940, to fit this leveraged profile.

Note: All rate stats are per 9 IP. "xH" is non-HR hits.

Pitcher IP ER xH
Lvrg. Sutter 1980 2.8 6.9

similar starters:
Mike Scott 2069 3.5 7.3
Ron Guidry 2392 3.3 7.4
A. Messersmith 2230 2.9 6.2
Jose Rijo 1803 3.2 7.4

Bruce Sutter is one of those very good pitchers, with a few great years, but whose career was just not long enough.

Goose Gossage

Goose's LI is only 1.62. Remember, his games as a starter reduces his overall leverage index, but increases the total number of innings. Going through the same exercise, here are Goose's leveraged stats, and his most similar comps

Pitcher IP ER xH Lvrg. Gossage 2931 3.0 6.9

similar starters:
David Cone 2881 3.4 7.0
Mark Langston 2963 4.0 7.3
Dwight Gooden 2801 3.5 7.6
Fernando V. 2930 3.5 7.7

Well, Goose certainly looks a bit better that Bruce Sutter. The way you feel about Dwight Gooden, Fernando Valenzuela, and David Cone, will lead your decision as to whether Goose Gossage should go to the Hall Of Fame.

Lee Smith

Unfortunately, I only have access to Smith's play-by-play records until 1990. His LI until then was 1.73, and this will be the figure I will use.

Pitcher IP ER xH
Lvrg. Smith 2230 3.0 7.3

similar starters:
Jose Rijo 1803 3.2 7.4
David Cone 2881 3.4 7.0
Bill Singer 2174 3.4 7.5
A. Messersmith 2230 2.9 6.2

Looks like a combination of players from Bruce Sutter and Goose Gossage! I don't see Lee Smith's credentials being that strong.

Posted by: JimGooding at January 5, 2005 10:48 AM

Glad to see JimG come around. :-)

My $.02 ...

Sandberg is the best defensive second baseman I've ever seen in over 35 years of watching baseball. He not only possesses the highest all time fielding percentage at the position (.989), he was a very, very good hitter, an excellent baserunner, almost never made any kind of mistake, kept his mouth shut, and played every damn day. I can't ever remember seeing him make a dumb play by throwing to the wrong base, not knowing how many outs there were, forgetting to cover second on a steal, etc.

If you could fill a roster with players like him you would hardly ever lose a game. He could have won a series of Gold Gloves at any position on the diamond, including center, because he was tremendously quick and had excellent speed.

His defensive footwork and mechanics were flawless, a beautiful thing to watch, and his range and first step were so good that he didn't dive for balls because he didn't have to. Cub fans grew accustomed to the feeling that any ground ball hit to the right side was an out.

And just on a personal note, his performance against Sutter in the June 1984 game against St. Louis, with 7 RBIs and two game-tying home runs in the 9th AND 10th innings, is one of the most amazing I've ever seen.

Posted by: Jeff Brokaw at January 5, 2005 12:41 PM

It's interesting that Robbie Alomar has such an inflated reputation because he's always diving for balls that Sandberg would have fielded casually because a smarter player with better range.

Posted by: oj at January 5, 2005 12:47 PM

Mazeroski was "only a fielder"? Well, the American League players used to watch him take fielding practice at the All-Star games back in the 60s. I never heard that said about any other player.

Sure, had he not homered in the bottom of the 9th against the Yankees he would not have been voted in. But he was an All-Star for 8 or 10 years and baseball is more than just batting (someone should tell Manny Ramirez). Otherwise, Dave Kingman would be in the Hall.

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 5, 2005 1:33 PM

No baseball executive ever would choose a glove, even like Mazeroski's, over a stick like Manny's

Posted by: oj at January 5, 2005 2:14 PM

But had Manny's errors in the World Series occurred in Game 7, leading to a Red Sox defeat, he would be even more of a goat than Fred Merkle.

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 5, 2005 3:08 PM

Who went on to have a not inconsiderable career:

http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Lane/7558/Baseball.html

Posted by: oj at January 5, 2005 3:17 PM

At first, I was going to say Bill Buckner, but that isn't fair - the game was already tied when Buckner made his error, and there was no guarantee that Mookie would have been forced out racing to 1st.

So I remembered Merkle. Maybe I should have said Freddie Lindstrom.

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 5, 2005 3:46 PM

You're doing worse--he's a Hall of Famer.

Posted by: oj at January 5, 2005 3:50 PM

I noticed that - but it seems his record doesn't bear it out. 7 years as an everyday player (out of a 13-season career) and then inducted by the Veteran's Committee in 1976. He must have had good contacts with some of the writers.

Perhaps I should have mentioned the catcher who got his mask stuck to his cleats earlier in the inning, missing a pop foul and allowing Muddy Ruel to get a key hit. Or the Dodger catcher who allowed Tommy Henrich to get to first after striking out in Game 4 of the 1941 World Series (by dropping strike 3).

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 5, 2005 4:51 PM

Mickey Owens, who Mickey Mantle was nearly named for...

Posted by: oj at January 5, 2005 5:58 PM

I saw that Dave Parker received about 12% of the votes. If that is the best he can do, then Jim Rice is never going in. Parker was better than Rice. Sure, the cocaine stuff hurts him, but he was the best player in the game from 1976 to about 1982.

Surprising that Bert Blyleven doesn't rank higher - he played for mostly losing teams in his career (Twins, Indians, etc.), but he did have the best curve of his time and won 287 games.

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 5, 2005 8:55 PM

At no time in the history of man was wrist-swinging Dave Parker ever half the player that was Jim Rice. Dave Parker was a soft single machine along the lines of the always-useless Tony Gwynn.

One more note on the subject of Sandberg. Bruce Jenkins, sportwriter for the S.F. Chronicle, wrote this today:

I have nothing in particular against
Sandberg, a fine man who played with
distinction. I just can't remember
anything truly special about his career
-- and I was a daily-grind beat writer
through most of it. He had decent
numbers in two postseasons (1984 and
'89), but no defining moments. He
refused to dive for balls -- hardly an
admirable trait for middle infielders.
He was just plain Ryno -- no Joe Morgan,
no Roberto Alomar. For my money, even
Jeff Kent has built stronger credentials
among modern-day second basemen.

Posted by: JimGooding at January 8, 2005 11:09 AM

Jim:

That's pluperfect--the best range of any secondbasemnan to play the game is precisely why he didn't dive, but this knothead would prefer an Alomar with crappy range who has to dive because he's fooled so often.

Here are some highlights:

http://chicago.cubs.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/content/printer_friendly/chc/y2005/m01/d04/c927226.jsp

Posted by: oj at January 8, 2005 11:21 AM

OJ: that was a good link with good info, thx

Jim Hamlen:
>Dave Parker had more than 1100 more AB's than Jim Rice, producing only 23 more runs and 42 more RBI's in a career three years longer than Rice's.
>Rice's lifetime BA is eight points higher, .298 to .290.
>Rice had 43 more HR, but Parker had 150 more doubles.

In short, Dave Parker had more power than I thought, especially gap power, but he did not produce runs/rbi's at nearly the rate of Jim Rice.

Posted by: JimGooding at January 11, 2005 12:55 PM
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